Sprint Car Youth Movement Hits Perris Auto Speedway

Even though the frequency is nothing like the changing of the guard at London’s Buckingham Palace, changing of the guard happens periodically in all forms of motorsports. That includes short track racing and in this case, the Avanti Windows and Doors USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series that will be making its second appearance of 2024 at Perris Auto Speedway this Saturday night, March 16th.

The changing of the guard has happened several times since Perris Auto Speedway opened in 1996. At that time some of the stars previously raced at legendary Ascot Park in Gardena which closed its doors in 1990. Ascot heroes like Rip Williams, Ron Shuman, and Leland McSpadden were part of the show. Joining them were up-and-comers like JJ Yeley, “The Gas Man” Richard Griffin, “Super” Ricke Gaunt, Cory Kruseman, and Tony Jones. As the racing progressed through the years, along came new heroes like “The Demon” Damion Gardner, Mike Spencer, Matt Mitchell, Brody Roa, the Williams brothers, and Tommy “Thunder” Malcolm. These are just a few of the stars who have graced the clay at Perris Auto Speedway.

Could there be a new group of young stars emerging on the scene today? From the looks of the field on opening night for the Avanti Windows and Doors USAC/CRA Sprint Cars, the answer is yes. A strong bevy of young drivers showed up for the opener and two of them gave the veteran drivers all they could handle.

“The season opener was a great night of racing,” promoter Don Kazarian said. “There is a lot of young talent coming into the series and they shined on opening night. Especially David Gasper and Braden Chiaramonte. Gasper charged all the way up to second and he was closing on winner Matt Mitchell late in the race. Chiaramonte came from deep in the pack and finished eighth. It is safe to say that each of them will win a series main this year.”

For the record, Santa Barbara, California’s Gasper, the 2021 and 2022 California Lightning Sprint Car Series champion, started ninth and drove up to second. Chiaramonte, who lives in El Cajon, California, and who turned 17 the day after the race, started 16th and weaved his way through the pack to finish eighth. Perhaps as impressive as their finishes was the fact that amongst a field of veterans, they were the two fastest drivers in the main event. Gasper was the only driver to break the 17-second barrier when he recorded a 16.965 on the last lap while trying to chase down Mitchell. One lap earlier, Chiaramonte’s 17.072 made him the second-fastest driver in the 30-lapper.

“The confidence, speed, and car control those two guys showed in the main event, was amazing,” Kazarian raved. “They looked like they had been out there for years. Their combined total of 410 starts at Perris now stands at three. I am excited to see more of them and the other up and coming youngsters in the series as they get in more laps.”

Another teen to be reckoned with this season is Lakeside, California’s Grant Sexton. Last year was the 2022 POWRi Southwest Lightning Sprint Car Series champion’s first full-season racing 410 sprint cars. The 19-year-old won the USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year Award. In addition, he placed seventh in the championship point standings. This season his 50-year-old father Brent is trying to emulate him by winning the Rookie of the Year title.

Among the other youngsters on hand were Goodyear, Arizona’s Logan Calderwood. The ASCA 2022 Southwest Series champion finished 12th in the standings in his first full USAC/CRA season in 2023. He won one of the heat races on opening night three weeks ago and finished 13th in the main event. Two teens who graduated from the PAS Young Gun series also made their USAC/CRA debuts at the opener. 2023 Young Gun champion Blake Hendricks from Simi Valley, California, and New Cayama’s Elexa Herrera. Throw in “Shugah” Shane Sexton, who has raced limited schedules in the series the last two years, and the future looks bright.

“Those kids all looked good,” Kazarian concluded. “And there are some more youngsters on the way that will make their presence known in USAC/CRA this year. The future looks bright.”

Spectator gates will open at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and the first race will get the green flag at 7:00. Adult tickets for the night of exciting dirt track racing and clean family fun are $30.00. Seniors 65 and over get in for $25.00. For kids 6-12 it is only $5.00, and children 5 and under are admitted free. Advance tickets are available online at https://www.tix.com/ticket-sales/pas/7. They can also be ordered by phone at 1-800-595-4849. For fans who do not wish to purchase tickets in advance, there will be plenty available for everyone at the ticket window on Saturday.

Perris Auto Speedway is conveniently located on the Lake Perris Fairgrounds (home of the Southern California Fair), one hour east of Los Angeles and one hour North of San Diego. To get to the track, take the 215 freeway, exit on the Ramona Expressway, and go three miles east to the fairgrounds. For directions online, the address to enter is: 18700 Lake Perris Drive and the zip code is 92571.

Perris Auto Speedway wants to thank the following corporate partners. Ahern Equipment Rentals, Anderson Chevrolet, Battery Systems, Bud’s Tire, Tire Choice Auto Service, Chris’ Hauling, City of Perris, Communication Innovations, Daytona Boat & RV Storage, Ed Moore Bullet Proof Driveshaft, Flowdynamics, GAS Chassis, HD Industries, Heimark/Anheuser Busch, Hoosier Tires, Inland Rigging, Living Water’s Hospice, LKQ Pick Your Part, Luke’s Transmission, Moose Racing, Pepsi-Cola, Performance Online, Pole Position Raceway, PrintItNow.com, Rainbow Bolt & Supply, Rene’s Bar & Grill, Rugged Radios, Shaver Specialties, Square H, Sunoco Race Fuels, Trench Shoring, Upland Rock, Varner Construction and Vista Paint.

For information on 2024 billboard advertising at The PAS, please call 951-940-0134 and ask for Charlie Watson.

USAC/CRA races from Perris Auto Speedway are not streamed online.